Colin Trevorrow’s first feature Safety Not Guaranteed was made for $750,000 and found most of its viewers when it arrived on Netflix. Patty Jenkins’ first film Monster was made for $8 million and was met with high critical praise and an Oscar for Charlize Theron’s transformative performance. Trevorrow’s follow up projects were Jurassic World and an upcoming Star Wars film. No one questioned whether or not he was prepared to jump into such high stakes franchise films with massive budgets. Jenkins’ follow up was Wonder Woman. Hollywood Reporter ran a story on Wonder Woman stating that “Warner Bros. gambles $150 million on its first woman-centered comic book movie with a filmmaker whose only prior big-screen credit was an $8 million indie.” The jump for directors from tiny indie to big budget franchise is becoming increasingly more common, at least for male directors. Studios may need to rethink this practice as Jenkins’ Wonder Woman marks the best opening weekend gross for a female director and outgrossed its Zack Snyder led predecessors, Man of Steel and Batman V. Superman, in its opening weekend. It is also the only film out of the DC extended universe to have a certified fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Wonder Woman sets a good example for films in the superhero genre. We’ve all heard the origin stories of Batman and Spiderman so many times we can recite them from memory like modern day myths, yet we are still reintroduced to these characters from the very beginning with every iteration. The depiction of Diana Prince’s formative years on the hidden island of Themyscira add to the story of a character we’ve never seen depicted on the big screen. Instead of feeling like a prologue, her backstory is directly connected to the plot of the movie when Steve Trevor crashes into the Amazon’s microcosm from the battlefields of World War I. Diana goes with Steve to London to try and find the God of War, Ares. She believes that man has only become violent and hateful because of his presence and she will restore the world to peace by killing him.
Wonder Woman is the rare film of its genre that does not get bogged down with trying to set up the next three films in the DC universe, which has been the main problem with the films that have come before. Wonder Woman is all the better for it. Gal Gadot as Diana exudes poise and strength even as she is navigating the cultural differences between Themyscira and early 20th century London. The movie shines especially bright whenever Gadot and Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor are allowed quieter moments together. Trevor is the rare superhero love interest with a complete personality and agency of his own. The problem of the lengthy final battle scene seems to be harder to fix as the end of Wonder Woman is bogged down by fifteen minutes too long of a fight. However, the scenes themselves are shot with more clarity and style than is normally seen. By keeping a more contained storyline with more focus on the film we are currently watching than what lies ahead, Wonder Woman is a much more satisfying watch than we are accustomed too.
The opening weekend of Wonder Woman was surrounded by controversy. New York Magazine published a review by critic David Edelstein that came back to the appearance of star Gal Gadot multiple times and women only screenings of the film at the Texas based Alamo Drafthouse Cinema were met with protests. That review was received with backlash even from Edelstein’s colleagues and the women only screenings all sold out, some within an hour. Women made up 53% of Wonder Woman’s opening weekend audience. This has been seen repeatedly throughout this year, most notably with Beauty and The Beast whose opening day audience was 72% female. Women want to see movies about women made by women. Beauty and The Beast is the top grossing film so far this year and Wonder Woman is at number five and counting. It’s not just good for movies, it’s good for business.
– Chandler Ferrebee, Light House Program Support Intern